Portland Thorn Christine Sinclair Claims Soccer’s Record for Most International Goals
Christine Sinclair, the University of Portland alum who captains both the Portland Thorns and Canada’s national soccer team, has claimed the record for the most international goals ever scored,* surpassing American Abby Wambach’s total of 184. In a January 29 game against St. Kitts and Nevis as part of CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying tournament, Sinclair reached 185 in an 11–0 win for the Canadians.
She tied Wambach’s record in the seventh minute on a penalty kick after she’d been pushed down in the box. The record-breaking next goal came 15 minutes later, after a little tease of St. Kitts keeper Kyra Dickinson. The celebration of this 185th goal included Sinclair rolling the now-legendary ball to knock her teammates down like bowling pins.
At 36, the British Columbia–born Sinclair is the third-oldest played in the National Women’s Soccer League but still one of “the best attackers in the world,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons declared in April. Despite a lengthy absence for national team duties in a World Cup year, she was the Thorns’ top scorer for the 2019 season.
It was just a brace against St. Kitts, but Sinclair has had 10 international hat tricks. While many came in lopsided wins against teams with much lower FIFA rankings, she also scored three times against highly ranked Japan in a game during a 2008 invitational tournament. Another three came against Hope Solo and the United States in an absolutely epic Olympic semifinal in 2012, complete with overtime, controversial calls that some say handed the game to the US, lost tempers, and a subsequent fine and suspension of Sinclair for comments about the ref. (It’s mandatory viewing, but if you don’t have time to watch the full game this goth-soundtracked slo-mo highlight reel, in which the blond-topped Sinclair comes off a bit like the gold robot Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, is worth a look.)
As a Thorn, she lodged a hat trick in a 2014 win over the Boston Breakers, with 2019’s US starting keeper Alyssa Naeher in goal. Last April she scored a hat trick on Naeher again in the Thorns’ 4–4 tie with the Chicago Red Stars, the team that would later end Portland’s 2019 playoff run in the NWSL semifinals.
Canada is trying to qualify for its fourth Olympics in a row, having earned bronze medals in 2012 and 2016. Its win in this opening game of conference qualifiers featured four goals from Adriana Leon, two from Ashley Lawrence, and one apiece from rising stars Jayde Riviere, Jessie Fleming, and Jordyn Huitema, the 18-year-old who came on as a sub for Sinclair in the 47th minute. They face Jamaica February 1.
Sinclair’s national team has had a lackluster year, with a round-of-16 exit at the World Cup, back-to-back 4–0 losses in fall friendlies, and lingering shock from the 2018 departure of its coach to lead the men’s team instead. (At the time Canada’s women were ranked fifth in the world and its men 94th and he ... wanted a more challenging project?) But her record adds to other recent successes by Canadian athletes and Canada-based teams. In June, basketball’s Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship since joining the league as an expansion team in 1995. In September, Ontario-born 19-year-old tennis player Bianca Andreescu won the US Open, the first Grand Slam singles title ever for a Canadian. Even the Washington Nationals’ World Series win in October has a little maple syrup on it, as the team was the Montreal Expos until 2004.
*In soccer, women rule the top of the list for most international goals scored, with Iran’s retired Ali Daei holding the men’s record (but eighth place overall) at 109 and the 34-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo at 99 and counting. No, women aren’t better at scoring goals than men, or worse at defending. The women’s dominance is related to longer tenures on their national teams and a lack of parity among competitor nations—both factors due in large part to the instability or absence of domestic women’s leagues and development programs, as well as the global systemic oppression of and disinvestment in women and girls.